Learning from Online Lectures and Discussions

Successful online learners, like all learners, have a growth mindset! They are flexible, tolerate the inevitable technical problems that arise, ask for help when they need it, keep on top of regular work for each class, minimize distractions as much as possible, and persist when things are hard.

Learning from Online Video Lectures

Video lectures be synchronous (in real-time with opportunities for interaction) or asynchronous (where you are watching a recorded lecture).

  • If your time zone and internet connection allow, attend online classes at the normally scheduled time so you have the opportunity to interact with your professors and classmates. If you need to watch the recorded version, watching the videos at a regular time can help you establish a routine and avoid falling behind. Speeding up videos may seem like a time saver, but be honest with yourself about how much you’re able to understand and retain, and be prepared to lose that “saved” time later on when you’re studying for exams.
  • If you are watching a recorded video, consider watching it in chunks, pausing every 10-15 minutes to review notes and connect the content to other course materials.
  • Expect to take time before each class to read the syllabus or Canvas instructions so you know before class what’s expected of students.
  • Take notes just like it’s a normal class. The LSC’s Canvas module and page on Cornell Note Taking offer good general note-taking tips.
  • During synchronous video lectures, if there is a chat function, post your questions or points of confusion. It’s highly likely that others have the same questions.
  • Close down distracting apps while you are watching the lecture. (See “Perils of Multitasking”)

Communication is different in the online environment:

  • Find out how your professor expects you to communicate questions about the class and/or about the course material: During class? In office hours? Via email? Through Canvas?
  • For an in-person class, professors often rely on non-verbal cues to know whether their students are following along or not. In online environments students need to signal to ask for clarification when they are confused. For your online classes, should you use the chat? raise your “virtual hand”? unmute your microphone and just talk? Just like in-person classes, this will vary from course to course.

Participating in Online Discussions

TIP: Active participation in online learning can help you—and the rest of the class— feel connected, which helps learning!

Think about how you will find your comfort in online classes and discussions. Just like in regular classes, different students have different preferences and comfort levels in live discussion. If you’re somebody who tends to contribute very actively, continue to engage, but pull back a little to allow others to contribute. And if you normally tend to listen actively and speak less, look for places where you can contribute your thoughts. Consider:

  • Starting in the chat and then contributing more when you feel more comfortable.
  • Doing the pre-reading or pre-lecture assignments and taking a few notes.
  • During the lecture, jot down some questions or points before you contribute.

These can help you feel more confident when you chime in with your thoughts or questions. No matter how you feel about participating, support your classmates! Remember, while some people feel at ease in online discussions, others may find it anxiety-producing. Offering a quick thumbs-up or “Interesting point!” can make a difference for a fellow student.

Your professor may put you in smaller breakout rooms to have conversations with a smaller group of people. If you don’t know people, take a minute to introduce yourselves and then move to the question you are discussing. Depending on what the professor is asking you to do, think about having someone jot down some notes and keep an eye on the time.

If you can (your space and bandwidth allow), turn on your video – it will help you connect with your classmates and your instructor. It’s harder to feel connected with empty video windows! Take a look at our page on things to keep in mind in online and remote classes for some additional ideas.

Watch: LSC’s Mike Chen Shares Strategies for Reading in Online Courses

Are you wondering what some good strategies are for reading in online classes? Check out this video on “Online Learning: Reading” for some ideas before and after class.

Having trouble?

Whether you are learning online or in-person- if you are experiencing challenges, let your instructors know! Professors can’t help you solve problems they don’t know you’re having.

Next up:

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For useful information, go to the Cornell Covid-19 updates page covid.cornell.edu

Many of these tips are adapted from the Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan and the Academic Resource Center at Duke University—thank you to our colleagues for generously sharing their resources.

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